Forum Posts

Brenda Rushman
Feb 05, 2022
In Beginners Learn here!!
Learning to Learn: This is the first in a series of articles that will give you what you need to understand what's happening as you train your dog. If you have any questions or problems, please post here in the Forum so that everyone can learn (including me!) ​ The following step-by-step list will help you past most hurdles you might encounter during these exercises. You can progress as quickly or as slowly as you would like. The important thing is that you do the steps IN ORDER. Do not skip steps. Do at least 10 repetitions at each step. If this skill is difficult for you or your dog, do more. Do not do fewer than 10 repetitions at each step, and don’t push your dog past the point where it’s FUN for your dog to learn. (I'd say no more than 5 minutes, but stop sooner if your dog gives any indication that he's done... not paying attention, seeming 'not to get it', whatever). If your dog is “bored,” either use a higher-value reinforcer, or consider that you’ve worked him past his abilities – always leave the dog wanting MORE. Treat after EVERY click (or verbal marker). Never click without treating (that’s LYING), and never treat without clicking (that will diminish the value of the clicker as a secondary reinforcer). Toss (or drop) the treat, if necessary, to set the dog up for the next repetition. Keep a clicker handy, so that you can click your dog for freely-offered behaviors – then, find a reward for him!! It’s not imperative that the treat IMMEDIATELY follow the click – it can follow a few seconds later, after you’ve gotten it from the fridge. The important thing is that the dog hears the CLICK during the behavior. Smile and tell the dog how wonderful he is. Bear in mind that the following descriptions are only OUTLINES… I highly suggest that you work with very tiny pieces of behavior, moving ever closer to the goal behavior. This is called “successive approximation” – moving successively closer to the goal, in small increments. Teaching the ‘Sit’ Command: Using your right hand, while standing, move the treat toward the dog’s nose and then toward the back of his head. Keep the food close enough that he doesn’t jump to get it… but far enough that he can’t simply grab it. As you move it toward the back of his head, he should naturally move into a ‘sit’, or maybe just 'crouch' a little, bending his back knees so that he's 'approximating' the sit (getting closer to it). If he backs up, move your left foot into position behind his back feet, then move it out of the way as his butt lowers to the ground. When his butt touches the ground, mark and reinforce. ​ Teaching 'Down' ​ In whatever room, keep some treats (really good stuff, not store-bought doggie treats!) handy. Wait patiently for your dog to offer a down on his own (sooner or later, every dog will lie down!), or lure him into position (I prefer luring for this, so I don't feel like I'm spending eons waiting for an 'offered' behavior. I'm impatient sometimes). When luring the behavior, shaping is very useful – the lowering of the front elbows is the beginning! Simply have him start this way over and over, each time withholding the 'click' in 1/4 second increments, so that his elbows lower a tiny bit more each time. Eventually, they'll give out, and his belly will touch... Jackpot! When capturing, the *instant* his belly touches the floor, click and offer the treat. Repeat this over and over – toss the treat onto the floor, away from the dog, to set him up to do it again. Keep the rate of reinforcement high – every 2-3 seconds, if you can manage it! ​ Practice this 3 times daily, for 5 minutes each time, for 4-5 days (more often, if you can manage it – but keep the sessions short!). ​ Teaching Walking on Loose Lead: ​ Let’s Go! -- Keep some treats (really good stuff, not store-bought doggie treats!) handy. For loose-lead walking, it’s best to keep these on your person, in a hip-pack or pocket. Use a 4-foot or 6-foot lead to keep your dog close to you. Practice walking through the house, with the dog not pulling… if he pulls, simply stop and wait. C/T for any non-pulling behavior, and always c/t if you need to “be a tree” – at the moment when the lead goes slack! Keep the rate of reinforcement high – every 2-3 seconds, at first. ​ Hold a treat in your hand (either one), while the dog is off-lead in your fenced back yard. Allow him to follow the treat for a step, then mark and give the treat. Gradually build up time, so that he’s taking 2 steps before receiving reinforcement… then 3 steps, and so on. Then, add the cue/command (‘heel’, ‘walk nice’, whatever), and practice until he’s consistent at this level. Then, start leaving the treats in the pouch on your hip (not using the lure). You’ll want to reinforce the dog in position… it’s best not to have him cross in front or behind you, to avoid tripping you. Note: I know you can’t ONLY work your dog in a fenced yard… I can’t stand not taking mine along, either! Lol So, give that first step a couple of days in the yard, then, before you take him out on-lead, WEAR HIM OUT. {grin} I promise, your first few walks will be MUCH less frustrating, if you’ll just take 15-20 minutes to run him around the yard, first. Then, make sure you take along PLENTY of really good treats, and start out with him walking beside you, just as you did in the yard. If he pulls forward, simply stop and wait. He’ll come back to you… when he does, mark and reinforce, and continue. ​ Practice this 3 times daily, for 5-10 minutes each time, for the first week (more often, if you can manage it – but keep the sessions short!). ​ Heeling -- Definition of finished behavior: the dog glues his right shoulder to your left leg for short distances, even in the presence of food and other distractions. This is a very strict position, and NOT intended for all walking exercises! The number one enemy of the perfect heel lies in its overuse!! Keep the duration short, such as the distance required to cross a street. This exercise has some very practical applications, such as crossing busy streets, and keeping your dog close to you when in the midst of lots of other dogs or when walking down a busy sidewalk. ​ Brenda Rushman CCBC ​Remember, this is only the first in a series of articles designed to help you train your dog yourself... text here in the Forum if you have trouble! Brenda
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Brenda Rushman
Jan 23, 2022
In Getting the Behavior
Okay, so you've decided to try training your dog... where do you start? First, teach your dog what 'the training game' is... if you're using a clicker, then 'click' means 'he gets a treat'. If you're not using a clicker, then a single word 'good' 'nice', etc, means 'he gets a treat'. You've read all the books and articles about clicker training methodology... now you're ready to try it out. The next step: you decide what you want to teach him. Sit? If that's the beginning, then HOW do you get him to 'sit' so that you can MARK the behavior?? In training circles, this quandary is called "Getting the Behavior". There are 4 basic ways to 'get behavior', and they each have pros and cons associated with them. Basically, though, I do whatever's necessary (so long as no one is hurt or scared) to 'get behavior'. There is a full article Getting the Behavior outlining all of this (how to click/treat, the different ways to get behavior so that it can be marked, how to know when your dog's ready to learn. Play with it. Have fun. You can't really mess this stuff up so bad that someone can't fix it for you. Brenda R. CCBC
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Brenda Rushman
Jan 23, 2022
In Using Management
The concept of management is very easy, and it's something that'll keep you from losing your mind. Bringing an animal into your home can be overwhelming. If you're getting (or already have) a puppy or kitten or a toy breed of dog, it's easier: when there's a problem, you pick them up, if you just need them corralled for a few minutes... but an hour can be more of a challenge, if your dog or cat isn't used to being managed. But if you get an adult cat or dog, it can be a different story... it often just isn't feasible to pick them up, but you need a way to keep them safe, or just keep them from rehearsing behaviors that you don't want them to rehearse, or just can't handle them being underfoot right now. Management provides safety while allowing learning to be achieved... without management, it would be impossible to set up scenarios that will all that 'foot in the door'. Brenda R. CCBC
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Brenda Rushman
Jan 23, 2022
In Greeting Behavior
Greeting behavior can be hairy, especially when your dog is that "unknown quantity"... and if your dog isn't a puppy, then chances are he's Unknown. How do you get to KNOW him? That's easy, believe it or not... set up exercises. Through exercises, you'll get to know him, he'll get to know you. Set up exercises with a neighbor (without a dog, at first), with your dog behind a fence... see how this scenario combines the management aspect with the opportunity for learning? Do this, at first, when he's Really Hungry (like 10-15 minutes before a scheduled meal) and use the BEST food rewards you can get your hands on (liverwurst is a staple here, for this purpose). Now, have the neighbor walk past the fence at a distance that only evokes interest... at this point, your dog will be alert and interested, but not so freaked-out that he won't accept the reward. If he doesn't accept the reward, look at what's keeping him from it: the neighbor's too close the reinforcement isn't tempting enough Play with these variables until you get the scenario arranged to where learning can begin... then, you're home free! Just practice this same exercise (try to make all variables the same each time; same person, same reinforcement; same distance from the person) over and over until the dog gives a "oh, it's just YOU again" response... then, you can start playing with the variables to get the person closer on each pass. Then, start at the beginning distance with a new person, then move closer. When you get to the point where people don't freak him out any more, have a neighbor pass with a dog that your dog knows and likes, at a distance that evokes interest only. Repeat. Brenda R. CCBC
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Brenda Rushman
Jan 23, 2022
In What's Reinforcement
There are 2 main focuses that allow us to bring a strange (new) animal into our home, and this understanding of these influences rises exponentially when you have more than 1 animal in your home. This is why so many people choose to bring puppies into their homes, rather than older dogs. When I bring a strange animal into my home, the first thing I'm thinking about is SAFETY... safety for that animal, safety for the animals already in my home, and safety for Hubby and me. Safety, no matter who you're trying to make safe, involves *management*... and management is 99% of what I do, no matter what I'm teaching. The concept of management is very easy, and it's something that'll keep you from losing your mind. Bringing an animal into your home can be overwhelming. If you're getting (or already have) a puppy or kitten or a toy breed of dog, it's easier: when there's a problem, you pick them up, if you just need them corralled for a few minutes... but an hour can be more of a challenge, if your dog or cat isn't used to being managed. But if you get an adult cat or dog, it can be a different story... it often just isn't feasible to pick them up, but you need a way to keep them safe, or just keep them from rehearsing behaviors that you don't want them to rehearse, or just can't handle them being underfoot right now. Learning different methods of management can help in a lot of ways... see the article on Management for more about this. Training is the other half of the equation... over the next week or so, we (me and the others in my home) engage in intensive training scenarios designed to teach them to be the happiest they can manage, and I use EVERYTHING I can use to tilt the scales in my favor. 'In my favor' means that things happen to suit ME... and no aspect of this is left to chance. Cats are kenneled or put in cat-proofed rooms, dogs are crated or on-leash, depending on what we're working on. While this management is happening, the training is happening. This training has 'fall-out' associated with it. Not the BAD fall-out of punitive training methodology, but the GOOD fall-out that comes from pairing something really good with something unknown. During this whole process, these animals 'take on' the value of the reinforcers used to gain this compliance... so I use Really Good Stuff. The associations made here (between animals and the Really Good Stuff) are what will carry us through all the interactions for however long the animal is in my home (if history serves as an indicator, even the fosters stay for their lifetimes. lol) The reinforcement and training methodology you use MATTERS in all of this. Brenda R. CCBC
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Brenda Rushman
Jan 23, 2022
In Housetraining 1-2-3
Millions of dogs are relegated to the backyard every year, because of a general lack of understanding between dog and owner -- many of these, because of housetraining mistakes. While often viewed as a behavioral problem, housetraining mistakes are most often the product of a lack of communication and understanding between dog and owner. If your dog knew what you wanted him to do, he'd do it... this stuff causes a lot of unnecessary stress in relationships. He doesn't want that. Understand this: house training is not a behavior that is invincible. Any change in circumstance can cause a dog to "backslide". If your dog has been sick, or recovering from surgery, or if there has been any change in circumstance in your living arrangements – no matter how insignificant they may seem to you -- accidents can occur. If accidents happen, they are more likely to happen again, forming habits. So, if you adopt a rescue, it's best to just assume that he's NOT housetrained, because he hasn't been housetrained in your house. Now, this doesn't mean that you'll have difficulty teaching him (because if he's learned something once, he'll learn it again faster!) For example, if you bring a strange dog into your home, and it's allowed to have an accident, you increase the chances of other dogs in your care doing the same. Also, if you take your dog visiting, unless he has been housetrained in this new place, it is just that -- a new place (dogs don't generalize behaviors as easily as humans do!). You will either have to take the time to teach him the rules, or just watch him closely. For example, when my dogs go to my sister's house, I have to watch them closely and provide regular potty breaks because they haven't been housetrained there. ​ Finally, accidents happen -- get over it. It's not the end of the world, and most dogs aren't reliably housetrained until between the ages of 9 to 12 months, without a doggie door. If your dog has an accident, sit down, calm down, and think about it. What could you have done to prevent it? Chances are, you either weren't watching close enough, or didn't take him out according to schedule. It's not his fault, so don't get angry. Sooner or later, he'll get it, and you'll look back on this time and laugh. Even in "special circumstances" -- no matter how dire they may seem -- patience, consistency, praise, tolerance, will, compassion, ingenuity, and a sense of humor will tell. ​ Note: exercises to learn housetraining are dependent on several issues, including the layout of your house, and your dog's age and background. If this is something you're working on, I can help you with exercises to teach the individual components to this, based on your situation. ​ Brenda Rushman, CCBC PAWSitive Solutions! Canine Behavior Counseling
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Brenda Rushman
Jan 21, 2022
In Beginners Learn here!!
We'd love to get to know you and your pet better. Take a moment to say 'hi' to the community in the comments. Please feel free to include a photo, video, or other attachment that might let us see how much fun you're having! Brenda R.
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Brenda Rushman
Jan 21, 2022
In Beginners Learn here!!
Share your thoughts about pet-ownership in general, and what you'd like to learn here. Feel free to add GIFs, videos, #hashtags and more to your posts and comments. Get started by commenting below. Brenda R.
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Brenda Rushman
Jan 21, 2022
In Beginners Learn here!!
Please no spam. Don't sell things here; if you need me for training or boarding, contact me privately. No copyright infringement. No offensive posts, links, or images. Don't cross-post without permission; if you gain permission, please include responses. Please don't private message members for help... if you need dog help, please post here so that we can all benefit. Please be respectful of all members at all times; always courteous. Please use a descriptive subject line so that people who may have the same issue can find your post (and hopefully responses) with a search. If you'd like to add to this, please respond. Brenda R.
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Brenda Rushman
Jan 21, 2022
In Cat Behavior
"Willingness to please' is not even considered in describing a cat's personality, like it is with dogs... you might see 'Willlingness to consider it', but not 'Willingness to please'. An independent dog just isn't as valued as a companion, and that was the point of all that careful breeding and culling of litters in the History of Dog. When someone tells me that they want a dog that won't demand attention, I advise them to get a cat. <lol> Become a member, and read the article at Cat Stuff.
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Brenda Rushman
Jan 21, 2022
In Dog Behavior
Dogs don't do things because we *want* them to do them -- they do things because there is a *reward* involved (or, because they escape a punishment) for doing them. Games can be used as a reward for appropriate behavior, or they can be used as tools to teach a dog bite inhibition, or they can be used to re-direct prey drive, or even to teach a dog service skills. To a dog, life is a game... and that's as it should be. Look at it this way... your dog is always ALWAYS looking for a reward... and if you don't give him a reward when he's GOOD (doing what you WANT), then he'll find his OWN rewards... he'll do what you may not want him to do (chew your shoes, eat off the counter, drag out the garbage, dig holes in the yard...) Read the article at Doggy Games. Brenda Rushman, CCBC
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Brenda Rushman
Jan 21, 2022
In General Pet Stuff
There are lots of ways to train your pet. You can do it yourself (please join us here, and ask questions! I'm more than willing to help!) I can suggest books, videos, teach you the methodology, and I've got articles that I can send you to help you on your way, step by step. If texting and chatting doesn't get you 'over the hump', we can do a training session or 2... you'd be amazed at what you and your pet can pick up in that short amount of time! And, if you'd like the opportunity to really get things rolling with your dog (no other species, please!), a 1-week BoardNTrain program will really help me to see where you're having difficulty, and how to get you past it. Animals and humans are individuals... there aren't any one-size-fits-all fixes. But compassion and humor will get us there. Read the article at Many Ways
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